Silence by Shusaku Endo

silence

Originally published in 1966, then in translation in 1969, this book has gained recent popularity due to the release of the feature film of the same name.  This fictional account of the life of a Jesuit priest in 1640’s Japan is a story that depicts the battle between religious faith and doubt.  The “silence” of the title refers to God’s presumed silence to the suffering of the protagonist and those that by association are persecuted by Japanese authorities.  The conflict the protagonist faces is both internal and external.  The underlying irony of this story is twofold with the protagonist viewing his mission in Japan at first as truly righteous.  He does this even in the face of his former mentor and the Japanese authorities pointing out that he is an outsider presuming that he knows what is best for the Japanese by preaching about salvation and in doing so leading those that follow to persecution and death.  The other irony which is not overtly mentioned is that although the priest is condemning the Japanese for their persecution of Christians in Japan at the same time in Christian Europe heretics were being persecuted for not adhering to what was thought as the right form of Christianity.  Although this book is set in Medieval Japan it is not an overly historic work.  One learns more about this time period by reading Clavell’s Shogun in comparison; however this is not the point of the novel.  It is instead an internal religious discussion by the writer for readers to understand what it means to worship and have beliefs that are not shared by the majority and considered intrinsically foreign.  Silence by Shusaku Endo forces readers to confront how they may have given up their beliefs or ideals in order to conform and survive and get ahead in society. (Submitted by Shane)

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The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

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This book came to my attention a few years ago but I didn’t have a chance to read it until now. I really liked it and I’m torn between being sorry that it took me so long to get to it and glad that I finally did.

It fits into so many categories, historical fiction, romance (I use this one cautiously), and a mystery though it isn’t classified as one. Notice I didn’t say it was a ghost story but it is loaded with atmosphere especially as it takes place in 18th century Cambridge, England. The author shows a cloistered, mostly male, world of the academics which was political, religious and blasphemous mix, but he also offers a glimpse into the life of the people who serve that world and the Cambridge of that time. I can’t wait to read more of this author’s works. (Submitted by Renee)

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God in Pink by Hasan Namir

god in pink

Hasan Namir’s novel, God in Pink, is a deeply powerful psychological and philosophical narrative. It’s a plea for justice, the use of critical thinking, and empathy.

Ramy is a young, gay man living and studying in Baghdad. His country, society, and religion view homosexuality as a sin; therefore, Ramy’s life is filled with loneliness, secrets, violence, injustice, and downright misery. After constantly living in fear and anxiety for many years, the protagonist of the story turns to God and his tumultuous heart and mind seek counsel from a local sheikh. However, help is not easy to find when people see the world in black and white colours only. Even more challenging is to make people think for themselves rather than follow scriptures which presumably state exactly what’s right and what’s wrong. One of Ramy’s greatest struggles is to understand why religion states that God loves us all equally, yet that same religion outlaws homosexuals, leaving them taunted and penalized for being the way they are.

This book offers plenty of thoughts for discussion and contemplation, and will serve as a perfect opportunity to touch base with your own values and beliefs. (Submitted by Surinder)

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 print and e-book formats available now!